L train between Brooklyn and Manhattan to fully shut down for 18 months beginning 2019

Survey: Majority of L Train Riders Preferred 18-Month Option

July 25, 2016 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Riders stand inside an L-Train subway car. AP Photo/John Minchillo
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The decision is in.   

After months of community hearings, the MTA announced on Monday morning that beginning in 2019, there will be a full, 18-month closure of the L line’s Canarsie Tunnel, in lieu of a partial, three-year closure that would leave one track operating at 20 percent capacity.

The Canarsie Tunnel, which runs underneath the East River between Brooklyn and Manhattan, experienced significant damage during Superstorm Sandy.

“We think it is better to have a shorter duration of pain than a longer more unstable process — and risk unplanned closures — by leaving one track open during construction,” said MTA President Veronique Hakim in a press release.

This decision comes after the MTA hosted four community meetings in neighborhoods along the L line, including Williamsburg, Bushwick, Canarsie and in Manhattan along the 14th Street corridor.

“While the MTA always looks to avoid service disruptions, there is no question that repairs to the Canarsie Tunnel are critical and cannot be avoided or delayed,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said in a press release. “Throughout this process we have committed to engaging the community and listening to all concerns so that we can address them as we prepare for this necessary work.

“We are committed to working with the community just as closely as we develop ways to add service to help minimize the impacts of the closure,” Prendergast continued.

While the tunnel is closed, the L train will continue to run in Brooklyn between Williamsburg and Canarsie, but the line will not run along the five stops in Manhattan between Eighth Avenue and First Avenue.

During the rehabilitation process, the MTA will make improvements to stations closest to the Canarsie Tunnel, according to the press release.

Amendments will include new stairs and elevators at the Bedford Avenue station in Williamsburg and at the First Avenue station in Manhattan.  In addition, three new electric substations will be installed, providing more power to run extra trains during rush hours.

The transit advocacy membership organization Riders Alliance released a survey of roughly 350 L train riders in May that revealed that 77 percent of them preferred a full, 18-month closure of the L line, rather than a partial, three-year shutdown.

“The MTA made the right call for more than 300,000 daily riders,” said Masha Burina, a community organizer for Riders Alliance. “Even the best option will be painful for riders and for the communities that depend on L train service. The MTA and the city should work with riders and with communities along the entire L train to come up with an aggressive plan to provide service when the tunnel is closed for construction.

“Every idea should be on the table; this is a desperate time, and we should take desperate measures,” she continued.

Roughly 225,000 straphangers currently use the L train to travel between Brooklyn and Manhattan each day, and with the construction of the tunnel starting in less than three years, the MTA must now consider alternative options for those passengers.  

The MTA said in its press release that there would be added service and additional capacity on the M, J and G trains during the shutdown.

MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz told the Brooklyn Eagle in May that the MTA plans on improving the G train by doubling its length of cars, increasing service and using more modern cars. G trains will run more frequently during the L train closure and the trains will double in length from four cars (300 feet) to eight cars (600 feet), according to Ortiz.

Daniel Levy, president of the real estate website CityRealty, has also proposed an alternative travel option in the form of an aerial gondola system, which he has dubbed the “East River Skyway.” The tram would connect Williamsburg to Lower Manhattan.

In response to the East River Skyway plan, Ortiz told the Eagle that the MTA is “committed to working with the city on examining all viable travel options.”


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